The Book Collectors of Daraya
‘This is an urgent and compelling account of great bravery and passion. Delphine Minoui has crafted a book that champions books and the individuals who risk everything to preserve them.’ Susan Orlean, author of The Library Book
In 2012 the rebel suburb of Daraya in Damascus was brutally besieged by Syrian government forces. Four years of suffering ensued, punctuated by shelling, barrel bombs and chemical gas attacks. People’s homes were destroyed and their food supplies cut off; disease was rife.
Yet in this man-made hell, forty young Syrian revolutionaries embarked on an extraordinary project, rescuing all the books they could find in the bombed-out ruins of their home town. They used them to create a secret library, in a safe place, deep underground. It became their school, their university, their refuge. It was a place to learn, to exchange ideas, to dream and to hope.
Based on lengthy interviews with these young men, conducted over Skype by the award-winning French journalist Delphine Minoui, The Book Collectors of Daraya is a powerful testament to freedom, tolerance and the power of literature.
In the media
This is an urgent and compelling account of great bravery and passion. Delphine Minoui has crafted a book that champions books and the individuals who risk everything to preserve them.
Susan Orlean, author of The Library Book
An extraordinary story . . . Heartbreaking, inspiring, and beautifully told
This compassionate portrayal of an engaging group of rebels serves as a testament to both the resilience of the human spirit and to the power of story.
I was so moved by this account of the young rebels of Daraya, Syria, who, in the midst of a four-year blockade by Assad’s forces (including having poison gas used against them), set up a library with books rescued from bombed and destroyed buildings, an underground (in both senses of the word) library that grew to more than 15,000 titles, ranging from Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People to Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, and everything in between. In this testimony to the power of reading, these lines stood out: ‘Books are their best way to escape the war, if only temporarily. A melody of words against the dirge of bombs.’
Nancy Pearl, author of Book Lust and George and Lizzie